I’m away on vacation, so I asked for help from readers. Here’s a contribution from Amy, who helped me out last year, too. Thanks, Amy!
Fridays in July and August are FREE at the Albany Institute of Art! Last year we took advantage of the opportunity to visit such a special place. I remembered having gone a few years back while my oldest was younger and more stroller tolerant than my youngest is now. While my oldest is a spirited child to say the least, my youngest is no less spirited but a whole lot more difficult to manage in terms of his aptitude for destruction. When we “checked in” upon entering, the kindly man at the desk suggested a visit to the Children’s Gallery. But no, says I, we were there to see the current Hudson River Panorama exhibition. On and up we went to the second floor where within minutes of entering my youngest climbed upon a display faster than you could say “Jack Robinson” (For usage, read a favorite of ours, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes (Sandpiper Books) by DuBose Heyward). And faster than Jack Robinson did a security guard arrive and fixed me with that knowing glance that perhaps our kind would be better suited to the Children’s Gallery after all. I must admit to feeling slightly annoyed until we entered containment zone known as the Children’s Gallery.
The Children’s Gallery is a wonderful little room for families who desire a cultural outing without worry of becoming persona non gratis. (Although it’s really so much more, so read on!) Despite our experience, it is important to note that the AIHA does indeed welcome families. They also offer programs beginning at ages 3 years and up, as well as summer camps for kids. It just may be that the 2 and under set are not quite as ready for all of their offerings like the exhibits on the second and third floors, especially if those tots are anything like my own almost 2 year old. While children are welcome to touch and explore and “interact” in the “happy space” of the Children’s Gallery, there was only one other “touchable” display, located in the “mummy” room on the second floor and these were replicas of Egyptian deities. In the Children’s Gallery, “touchables” include a light box encouraging color and pattern exploration, an awesome puppet theater, dress up clothes and a bookshelf of Caldecott-only books. Next time, with both in tow, we know where will be headed.
As luck would have it, my oldest and I were able to make a return visit to the AIHA the same day, later in the afternoon. What a world of a difference! The man at the front desk remembered us and inquired about my other child. I assured him that said child was in the good care of his father. The two of us then proceeded upstairs and into the museum gift shop. (We like gift shops.) With the help of the shop girl, we picked up several postcards featuring works of art on display to be used as part of a makeshift matching/scavenger hunt game. Not only was it fun, but also encouraged my daughter to really LOOK around her and take in all of the great art here. She spotted pieces that I walked by, completely oblivious to her experience. “But mom, we saw this one already right when we walked in!” And she was right!